Friday March 22, 2019
Home India Relief fund m...

Relief fund misuse and Fadnavis’ misplaced priorities

0
//

By Sapan Kapoor

Over 650 debt-ridden, wretched farmers have committed suicides in BJP-ruled Maharashtra in this year alone. The extent of the problem can be realized by the fact that the state government has declared 14,708 villages as drought-hit.

The Bombay High Court has even issued notice to the Devendra Fadnavis-led government seeking its response on the increasing number of farmer suicides in the state due to drought.

“Tell us what steps you are taking and what the ground level situation is,” a bench of justices Naresh Patil and S B Shukre asked.

The government pleader informed the court that farmers were being counseled by psychiatrists, loans and electricity charges were being waived, banks and cooperative societies were told not to recover loans.

It is a pity that when the state is reeling under such a severe crisis, a query filed under the Right to Information Act by activist Anil Galgali has revealed that CM Fadnavis granted Rs 8 lakh from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for a government employee’s dance group Sachivalaya Gymkhana’s visit to Thailand from December 26-30 last year.

Fadnavis, however, denied any wrongdoing over the alleged misuse of relief fund.

“The Chief Minister’s Relief Fund has separate accounts for drought relief. For cultural activities, 25 per cent of the fund is reserved. Out of that we sponsor people for cultural activities,” Fadnavis said.

This apparent insensitivity and callousness shown by the Chief Minister and his party over this pressing issue should be condemned in no uncertain terms. But, he is not the only one in the saffron party who has been accused of being injudicious in his approach in dealing with sensitive issues. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s incessant, whirlwind foreign trips to 20 countries from June 2014 and June 2015, an RTI query has revealed, has cost the exchequer over Rs 37 crore as well, inviting sharp criticism from various sections of the society.

I am in no way suggesting that our PM should give his world tour, selfie spree a break and instead look at the plight of poor farmers, for his supporters claim that his visits abroad – twice to the USA – have helped India in getting business and much needed foreign investment.

I am all for investment and business coming to India, for that will bring along with it jobs for the unemployed youth who rallied behind the PM during his election campaign and voted for him in large numbers.

CM Fadnavis and PM Modi have, however, failed to understand that in a country like India where over 60 per cent people live below the poverty line, the government ought to get its priorities right and ensure optimum use of available resources.

Thus, Rs 8 lakh that Fadnavis showered upon the babus for their junket from his relief fund or over Rs 37 crore that PM Modi spent on his world tour could have perchance saved many lives. For since December 2014 to October this year over 650 farmers have been forced to commit suicide. But, perhaps expecting humanity, moral righteousness and due consideration from our leaders seems like asking for too much of them.

When a BJP leader draws a puppy analogy while speaking about the brutal murder of two Dalit children, when a Sadhvi uses expletives against a community during an election speech, when a Union Minister terms Dadri lynching as an ‘accident’ and when the head of a state gets his priorities wrong, we should look within and introspect.

As Joseph de Maistre, a French philosopher, once said, “Every nation gets the government it deserves.”

Next Story

Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

1
VOA
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. Pixabay

For people streaming in from rural areas around New Delhi, the first stop is a collection of busy city intersections where contractors select daily wage labor from the crowds of young and old waiting every morning to get work.

Many standing at these intersections say they get work for barely half the month. “I have the ability to work hard. I never turn down any work. But I would prefer to get a cleaner, permanent job,” says 29-year-old Tek Chand. “The problem is one day I have money to buy rations, the next day I don’t.” Like millions of others, he migrated from his village three years ago to seek work and a better life in the city.

FILE - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019. VOA
As India prepares for general elections on April 11, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being attacked by opposition parties for failing to make good on a promise he made in 2014 to create millions of jobs for India’s huge young population. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party rebuts that criticism and says India is generating new opportunities as it becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies.

Job creation is a massive challenge for a nation with one of the world’s youngest populations — half the country’s 1.3 billion people are under the age of 25.

Recent data shows that joblessness has soared to record high levels. Opposition parties have made joblessness one of their principal election planks and have accused the prime minister of failing the estimated 8 to 10 million young people who enter the workforce every year.

The independent Mumbai-based Center for Monitoring Indian Economy estimates that unemployment reached 7.2 percent last month and that 11 million jobs were lost in 2018. With a working population of 500 million, that translates into more than 30 million people waiting for jobs. An unpublished official survey that showed unemployment at a 45-year-high has also been widely quoted by Indian media.

India's main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019.
India’s main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019. VOA

On the campaign trail, the head of the main opposition Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, who is seen as Modi’s principal challenger, talks repeatedly about a “jobs crisis.”

“Our government is refusing to accept that we have a massive crisis and potential disaster in front of us,” Gandhi told a group of university students in New Delhi recently, many who will be first time voters.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. It points to a recent industry report that jobs have been created in the medium and small sectors.

The BJP says millions of people have found work in the transport and infrastructure sectors or as delivery boys in booming online businesses as India becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies. They point out that the issue is not jobs but livelihoods, and point to millions of people who are not counted in job data.

They are self-employed people like cab owner Chain Pal Singh. As the app based taxi business boomed, Singh’s friend, who operated a cab, persuaded him to quit his job and take out a loan to buy a car. His decision has paid off — in four years he has earned enough money to invest in two more cabs.

Singh says he is much better off than when he held a job. “I used to earn about $225 dollars a month. Now in some months I can earn almost double that amount. Its beneficial for me.”

Following defeats in key state elections in December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told parliament last month, “This truth has to be acknowledged. The unorganized sector has 80 to 85 percent of the employment.” He pointed to millions of commercial vehicles sold in recent years and questioned if they had not generated jobs for drivers.

Economists admit India’s large informal sector has made it difficult to calculate employment, but they say joblessness or underemployment remains the country’s biggest challenge. While scarcity of jobs is not a new problem, two disruptive economic steps in the last two years exacerbated the problem.

In 2016 a sweeping currency ban meant to tackle the problem of illegal cash, dried up jobs as it created huge currency shortages, particularly in small businesses and in the countryside. A poorly-implemented tax reform known as the Goods and Services Tax a few months later was another blow to businesses.

Meanwhile, Modi’s “Made in India” campaign, which aimed at making India a manufacturing hub like China, has made a slow start and sluggish labor-intensive sectors cannot cater to growing numbers of job seekers.

“We can’t keep patting ourselves on the back that we are the fastest growing economy specially if all these other indicators are not growing at a rate that will absorb the growing labor force,” says Santosh Mehrotra, a human development economist at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

Also Read: The Mental Health ‘Epidemic’: About Six in Ten Teen Say, They Feel A Lot Of Pressure To Get Good Grades

He points out that exports, another sector that created a number of jobs has also not been performing well.

As the campaign heats up, the opposition will try to keep the spotlight on jobs, or lack of them, even as the BJP tries to focus on national security following a recent confrontation with Pakistan. The final verdict on whether to give Prime Minister Modi a second term in office will be delivered by millions of voters when they cast their ballots. (VOA)

One response to “Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?”

  1. If the employment picture is bleak despite the construction of so many more Kilometers of roads, railways, air ports, bridges, toilets and other infrastructures compared to the five or even ten years of UPA government, imagine where we would be if we had UPA III government .